What To Do After Divorce: A Post-Divorce Checklist
Even after a final divorce decree is issued and litigation has ended, there are still a number of items on a divorce client's "to-do" list that are important to address. Below is my post-divorce check list, detailing steps you should take after your divorce. Not all the items on the list may be applicable to your divorce situation. Many of the items can be accomplished by employing professionals to assist you.
- Obtain copies of your divorce decree and settlement agreement because you may need them to transfer property, accounts, debts. etc.
- Change your name by obtaining a new social security card, driver's license, and passports. Typically you will need to obtain a new social security card first before you can obtain a new driver's license and passport.
- Meet with a financial planner to review your financial goals. I often recommend to clients to meet with a financial planner to review their divorce settlement before the divorce is finalized and obtain an updated cash flow analysis.
- Update banking, brokerage, insurance, utilities and advisory accounts. Update your accounts by notifying the appropriate entities of account authorization changes and your name/address change. This includes banks. insurance policies/companies, schools and utilities accounts.
- Revise/transfer titles on personal and real property assets. If your divorce decree calls for a quitclaim deed or statutory warranty deed, make sure you have your attorney draft one for you. If the divorce decree calls for you to transfer title to one or more of your automobiles, make sure to get that done.
- Retirement Accounts/Plans. If retirement accounts were divided in your divorce, make sure you obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Contact your attorney or a financial advisor to assist you with this process.
- Obtain new lines of credit if you haven't already done so. Open a credit card in your name only and actually use it. Don't go overboard, but it is important to build a record of using credit and using it responsibly.
- Obtain health, life and other insurance. If you were covered under your spouse's health insurance, it important that you obtain your own. COBRA allows you to stay on your ex-spouses sponsored health insurance up to 36 months after divorce. However, the premiums can be high and up to 103% of current employer costs. If you are working and your employer offer's health insurance, you should enroll as soon as possible. With respect to life insurance, you will want coverage at least equal to the present value of future stream of payments of child support, alimony or property/settlement distribution. You will also want to update beneficiaries.
- If you are ordered to pay child support or alimony, budget accordingly. Paying child support or alimony is as important as paying your mortgage. Do not fall behind. If you're paying through an income withholding order (IWO), make sure you pay directly until the IWO kicks in.
- Social Security Benefits: You may be eligible for up to 50% of your ex-spouse’s Social Security Retirement Benefit if you were married for 10 years or longer. If you are unmarried, your benefit would be the greater of 100% of your own benefit, or 50% of your ex-spouse’s benefit at full retirement age. The earliest non-widow retirement benefit may be as early as age 62 and will have an applicable benefit reduction and may be permanently reduced.
- Change the named beneficiaries in your will or medical directives. It is important to update your estate plans after divorce. Any wills, trusts and powers of attorney will need revising. If you have minor children, special trusts may need to be created for certain assets such as IRA's and some annuities. You may also need to revisit guardianship choices.